Remain in Your Seats: When Sexual Respect Training Goes Wrong

Dear CalArts,

This is not how I wanted to start my journey with you. You championed yourself as a bastion of diversity, a place where the disenfranchised can be heard, an environment in which people look out for each other.

Your staff didn’t look out for us tonight.

You walked us into one of your gorgeous theaters for a mandatory meeting on sexual respect, your Title IX staff introduced the guest speaker, and then your entire Title IX office left. And it took twenty minutes for one of my peers to be brave enough to raise a hand and say what many people in the room hadn’t realized: “We are here because we were told this was mandatory, and survivors were given no recourse.” Our presenter, of course, immediately encouraged us to do what’s best for ourselves, whether that means taking a break or stepping out entirely. A solid ten people filed out the door; several more would follow suit in the ensuing hour and a half.

I wanted to be one of them, but my body had already frozen me in place. Given my current musical endeavors, I look at statistics about sexual assault and rape culture regularly. But it’s one thing to create and showcase music about assault and only acknowledge the crowd in situations you control. It’s another entirely to stand up in the middle of two hundred peers you’ve only just met and head for the door because you don’t want to relive trauma for two hours. And I am in awe of my peers who, regardless of how they came to the decision, spurred themselves to a moment of strength in a sea of vulnerability and hurt.

So, CalArts, you need to do better than that. Don’t send survivors into an event sponsored by Title IX and tell us we have no choice but to attend. We know those numbers by heart. We can sing them to you in our sleep. Reminding us of what we’ve overcome (and what we still struggle with) by asking how victims feel and why survivors of campus rape so rarely report won’t teach us anything new. We’ve lived the realities on that screen; we deserve better than watching them be played and replayed like last week’s college football highlights.

At the very least, give us a fucking trigger warning.

Me ♦